IF Hercules had sat loitering at home, what would he have been? Eurystheus, and not Hercules. Besides, by travelling through the world, how many acquaintances and how many friends had he? But none more his friend than God, for which reason he was believed to be the son of God, and was so. In obedience to Him, he went about extirpating injustice and lawless force. But you are not Hercules, nor able to extirpate the evils of others ; nor even Theseus to extirpate the evils of Attica. Extirpate your own, then. Expel, instead of Procrustes and Sciron, grief, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance, from your mind. But these can be no otherwise expelled than by looking up to God alone as your pattern; by attaching yourself to Him alone, and being consecrated to His commands. If you wish for anything else, you will, with sighs and groans, follow what is stronger than you, always seeking prosperity without, and never able to find it. For you seek it where it is not, and neglect to seek it where it is.
EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §16. ¶4
If Hercules had sat loitering at home, would he have been me? As Seneca says, it isn't that our lives are short, but that we waste much of them. Even a short life is sufficient to achieve the most amazing things. Mozart, Alexander, and Terry Fox come to mind.ReplyDelete
If we can focus on removing the log from our own eye we will change the world. If we can remove the vices and bad behaviour from ourselves we can make a difference in the world around us. We do not have the influence to change everyone but if enough of us change ourselves we will tip the balance over to virtue and right living.ReplyDelete
I like that. Building up a critical mass of virtue.ReplyDelete
This looks like a Christianized translation - in other translations, I see Zeus instead of God.ReplyDelete
I agree that one cannot extirpate the "evils" of others - even if you put a "bad" person in prison, only that person can change his/her ways.
And Effeminacy? That seems to be an ancient idea of vice. Or perhaps it is a mistranslation of ineffectiveness (not the same as effeminacy).
I've been thinking about the virtues lately, and it seems that Vice is not the lack of virtue, but an excess of anything that is virtuous in moderation. Take Laziness, for example. Resting is a virtue that allows one to relax stress and refresh oneself. Overindulging in this virtue is laziness. Understanding the balance allows stressed people to get what they need without guilt.
The Greek for this passage uses the words Θεου and Διοσ, so my guess is God is a appropriate translation (although the implication is that Zeus is meant). The word translated 'effeminacy' is μαλακίαν can also be translated as 'softness'.ReplyDelete
If one contrasts this to virtuous behaviour like 'steadfastness' or 'perseverance' it could be seen as a vice. In a society that glorified the Soldier (much like our own) 'Softness' could definitely be seen as a vice.
Like you, however, I see the virtues in the Aristotelian way, as the 'golden mean' between two vices. The virtue of Courage, for example, lies somewhere between Recklessness and Cowardice (leaning a little on the Recklessness side).
Thanks so much for being the first (other than Pam and I) to comment! Makes me go back to my books.
@Nikande & Michel- Yes, I like that thought as well. One at a time, one for one --for all.ReplyDelete
Here's a great quote from Emerson that I very much enjoy. Not worshipping a God per se myself but things that are godly, I find it very insightful.
“The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible."
"Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draws it. Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.
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